Stevenage 2-0 Crawley Town: Back-to-back defeats for unfortunate Reds

Kyle Bennett on his Crawley debut against Stevenage
Kyle Bennett on his Crawley debut against Stevenage

Crawley Town can consider themselves unlucky to suffer back-to-back defeats in League One with a 2-0 loss away at Stevenage after dominating the match for large spells.

Peter Hartley put Boro ahead early on but the hosts were largely on the back foot from there and Reds came close to an equaliser on a number of occasions before Michael Doughty sealed victory in the 90th minute.

Stevenages's Peter Hartley scores the first goal against Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Stevenages's Peter Hartley scores the first goal against Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby)

The harsh defeat was only Crawley’s third of the season and sees them drop two places in the table to tenth, though they are still only three points off the play-offs.

Richie Barker threw new loan signing Kyle Bennett straight into the team and Gary Alexander came in up front in two Reds changes, Jamie Proctor and Emile Sinclair dropping to the bench. Stevenage, meanwhile were unchanged from the side who won 3-0 at Crewe in the week.

Doncaster winger Bennett, signed the day before nearly had a debut goal after only 30 seconds but his fierce effort from 25 yards drew a fingertip save from Boro keeper Chris Day.

Reds had started in confident fashion with some slick one-touch passing, but they went behind after only eight minutes, defender Hartley throwing himself at a Greg Tansley corner to power home an unstoppable header.

The game then turned into a feisty, physical battle with a number of crunching tackles and two bookings for Stevenage players Luke Freeman and Filipe Morais.

There was a real lack of quality from either side until Crawley burst into life in the final five minutes of the half and carved out three good chances.

First Nicky Adams fired just past the post from 20 yards after some neat one-touch passing.

Dannie Bulman scored a cracking winner on the same ground last season and he should have put Reds level against his former club three minutes before half time. Adams stole possession and found Bennett, he raced towards goal and with the hosts stretched played in Bulman on the left, but from eight yards out the midfielder poked his shot wide of the far post.

And two minutes later a wonderful diving stop from Day denied Josh Simpson, who had wriggled free of two challenges on the edge of the box and arrowed an effort destined for the bottom corner.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with Crawley on the front foot while the hosts soaked up pressure and looked to counter.

Reds defender Joe Walsh threaded a lovely pass inside the full-back for Adams to latch onto, but with the keeper drawn to him he could only pick up Boro defender Jon Aston on the line.

Tricky winger Bennett showed flashes of the quality which made him a mainstay in Doncaster’s League One title-winning season, and a lovely little shimmy bamboozled his defender but from there he couldn’t keep his shot down.

The hosts’ first foray forward since half time saw Luke Freeman cut in from the left and shoot well over on 66 minutes.

A positive double substitution saw Barker bring on strikers Emile Sinclair and Jamie Proctor for Alexander and Bulman.

Most of the play continued in the Stevenage half, but from a Crawley corner the hosts broke quickly and substitute Bruno Andrade drilled a shot across goal and just wide.

From another Crawley corner Tansley so nearly mishit his clearance into his own net but Jimmy Smith hacked off his own line, and when a corner was this time played short to Hurst the full-back arrowed in a stinging shot which Day had to beat away.

The game was in the balance until, in the 90th minute QPR midfielder Doughty - who had a successful loan spell at Crawley two seasons ago - burst through on the left and picked out the bottom corner from a tight angle to seal all three points for Stevenage.

The result was cruel on the visiting Reds, though there were plenty of positives to take forward into next Saturday’s home match against Brentford.

Stevenage: Chris Day, Jon Ashton, Luke Jones, Filipe Morais (Burrow 63), Frances Zoko, Simon Heslop, Luke Freeman (Andrade 77), Greg Tansley (Dunne 87), Jimmy Smith, Michael Doughty, Peter Hartley.

Subs: Steve Arnold, Sam Wedgbury, James Dunne, Jordan Burrow, Dean Parrett, Oumare Tounkara, Bruno Andrade.

Crawley (4-2-3-1): Paul Jones, Mat Sadler, Josh Simpson, Kyle McFadzean, Joe Walsh; Dannie Bulman (Proctor 67), Mike Jones (Hurst 80); Nicky Adams, Kyle Bennett, Andy Drury; Gary Alexander (Sinclair 67).

Subs: Johnny Maddison, James Hurst, Mark Connolly, Connor Essam, Sergio Torres, Jamie Proctor, Emile Sinclair.